Smart pets harm my self-esteem

A DOG HAS LEARNED TO READ. Fernie, a two-year-old Labrador from the UK, can read four words and is working on another 20, says his owner, a teacher.

The growing intelligence of animals worries me, as I well remember the difficulty I once had trying to teach a two-year-old HUMAN not to throw herself off a balcony.

All parents know that children get furiously angry if we stop them doing things like climbing into lion enclosures, drinking poison, eating mystery brown objects off the forest floor, throwing themselves out of windows, etc.

Parenting books say: “They grow out of it”.

What they DON’T tell you is that they grow right back into it as teenagers, who have the exact same curiosity, but with more expensive dangers. (“I wander what would happen if we mixed every chemical in the school lab?”)


The obvious solution is to teach children the way we teach dogs.


(Child sits.)

“Who’s a good boy?” (Adult pats head and presents tiny morsel of food.)

“Study! Pass exams!

(Child studies and passes exams.)

“Who’s a good boy?” (Adult pats head and presents another tiny morsel of food.). Etc.

This is pretty much how my boss treats me at the office, and it works just fine.


What if your child can’t talk yet?

You can still teach it, thanks to scientists in Taiwan who have just invented an Infant Cries Translator app.

You download the app and stick your phone near your baby’s mouth. Wah wah waahhhhh is translated on the screen into clear, adult-readable terms such as: “I wish to have an additional beverage, carer.”

This reminded me of my first daughter, Kelci, who had advanced verbal skills and actually spoke just like that from about 18 months old:

“Convey me to the potty immediately, carer, or you and your so-called Persian rug will live to regret it.”

Happy memories.


But I was brought back on topic by a colleague from the US who says TV shows in her country feature a dog called Willow who can read. Clearly it’s a trend.

Look, I’m sorry, but I’m not convinced teaching animals to read is a good thing.

Life is grim enough without coming home to be greeted by my dog saying things like: “What do you think of Schopenhauer’s second volume of essays? Good grief, you haven’t read it, have you?”

Let’s keep this evolutionary advantage away from lesser creatures such as dogs, cats, crustaceans, Donald Trump fans, etc.


But I must admit I was curious. So I handed a newspaper to my dog.

She stared at the front page picture (an Asian political leader of course) and then tilted her head to one side, since dogs have the same gyroscopic thing in her brain that smartphones have.

Then she peed on it. That was an insightful comment.

Wish I’d thought of it.